BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
DETROIT FREE PRESS/TNS
DETROIT – Speaking to a packed crowd of thousands on Feb. 23 in Detroit, minister Louis Farrakhan called upon America to repent for what he said are its sins of racism and moral decay while warning that billionaires are trying to buy Black preachers and politicians.
In front of an estimated 14,000 people in TCF Center, Farrakhan concluded the end of the Nation of Islam’s annual convention with a 3 1/2-hour speech that touched upon a wide range of topics, from American politics to Iran to Malcolm X.
He also defended himself against a number of groups who have said he is anti-Semitic, saying that “this is not the work of hate. This is a demonstration of the awesome power of love.”
Criticized Dems, GOP
As in previous speeches, Farrakhan was critical of both Republicans and Democrats, saying that America’s leaders have failed Black people. He reiterated the Nation of Islam’s call for African Americans to separate and form their own nation to escape what he says will be the eventual downfall of America.
He suggested at one point that Detroit could be the place where African Americans migrate to to form their own self-ruled area.
“You are so upset with Trump … you’re so desperate to have that man out of the White House, you don’t care who wins as long as Trump loses,” Farrakhan, 86, said Sunday afternoon. “So they put in another billionaire … who don’t give a skip about Black people.
“And he’s paying off Black preachers. … When they can corrupt you, give you a bribe, give you something to satisfy your corrupt desires, you sell out your people, and when you sell out your people for the bribe money, now they’ve got you and when they’ve got you, they start asking you to do things that you may not want to do.”
Didn’t name them
Farrakhan did not mention any particular billionaire by name in his speech.
In recent weeks, Democratic candidate billionaire Mike Bloomberg has been spending heavily to reach out to minority communities, meeting with African American pastors and politicians in Detroit and across the U.S. Another Democratic candidate, Tom Steyer, is also a billionaire.
“Black people need leaders that can’t be bought,” Farrakhan said.
Based in Chicago with chapter across the U.S. and other countries, the Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit in 1930 and has increasingly been holding its annual conventions in Detroit, meeting there in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2020.
On buying property
Farrakhan has been encouraging members to purchase property in Detroit and establish their own businesses in keeping with the group’s self-help views.
“God wants you to separate from your enemies,” Farrakhan said. “God wants to give you land.”
“Where we going?” Farrakhan said, imitating a person asking where Blacks should migrate to.
“It could be right here,” Farrakhan said.
The convention was an expression of the influence of the Nation in Michigan among African Americans. In attendance were the mayors of Eastpointe, Inkster, and Muskegon Heights, said Nuri Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, introducing them before Farrakhan’s speech.
The chief of staff of Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones read a resolution in support of the group: “Almost 700,000 Detroiters are with you … love the Nation of Islam.”
Wayne County honored the Nation of Islam’s newspaper, The Final Call, with a resolution that was featured in the convention program.
Farrakhan also spoke about Malcolm X, who grew up and lived in Michigan, a former minister with the Nation of Islam who broke off and was then killed, reportedly by people tied with the Nation angry at him for criticizing their group’s longtime leader, Elijah Muhammad.
A new Netflix series, “Who Killed Malcolm X?,” suggests that the Nation of Islam was involved in his killing; Farrakhan reportedly had made threatening remarks about Malcolm after he left the group.
“He was my first great teacher,” Farrakhan said of Malcolm X. “He taught me much. One of the lessons he taught me was how to love the leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And when he (Malcolm) found fault with his teacher, I could no longer accept his tutelage.”
Farrakhan said Malcolm X “shook the world” when he served under Elijah Muhammad.
Blasts Soleimani’s killing
Farrakhan also spoke at length about the U.S. killing in January Iranian military general Qasem Soleimani.
“That man was no terrorist,” Farrakhan said of Soleimani. He was fighting an “occupying Army.”
Farrakhan blasted the U.S. for interfering in the Middle East.
“What are you doing in the Middle East? Soldiers everywhere.”
Farrakhan visited Iran in 2018 and met with Iranian leaders, but he said on Sunday he is not tied to them.
“We were not recruited,” Farrakhan said. “I didn’t go to Iran to beg for a dollar.”
Farrakhan added: “Trump killed my brother, Qasem Soleimani. Mrs. Clinton killed my other brother, Muammar Gadhafi. That’s why I wouldn’t support Mrs. Clinton. … I didn’t support her … and she lost. I didn’t know I had that much juice.”
Message to Trump
During one part of the speech, a large copy of the Ten Commandments was displayed behind Farrakhan as he spoke. He said America was violating all of them. He attacked same-gender sexual relations: “Men coming to men with lust … this is like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
“Mr. Trump, it’s time for America to repent,” Farrakhan said. He called upon Blacks not to “integrate into madness” and to “consider separation in a land of your own.”
Addressing Trump, Farrakhan said “I’m asking you to repent on behalf of the wickedness of your people, white people, for the evil that you have done to self, to others, to the native people, to the indigenous.”
Farrakhan was critical of Trump at times, saying: “The world is looking at a president who wants to be a king when the constitution and founding fathers were trying to run away from what they suffered in Europe under the kings.”
But Farrakhan defended Trump from attacks on him by institutions such as the FBI and CIA. He said that Black people should not join the criticism of Trump from U.S. government agencies because they have also attacked Blacks.
“Has the FBI been our friend? Has he attacked the FBI? … They’re getting what they deserved. … Has the intelligence of America been a friend of the poor?”